Release Date: Feb 23, 2010
Record label: Drag City
Genre(s): Rock, Alternative
Let’s get this straight out of the way. Joanna Newsom is probably the most divisive artist of the 21st Century; she provokes a stronger reaction than Obama’s Healthcare bill with a side order of Marmite on toast. On the surface, it’s easy to see why she would rub people up the wrong way - a baroque harp-playing prodigy singing modern-day madrigals in a voice which is equal parts Kate Bush, Joni Mitchell and a melismatic pixie princess on helium.
It was a little disturbing at first to hear that Joanna Newsom's full-length follow-up to the ambitious and polarizing Ys would be a triple album. Where 2004's The Milk-Eyed Mender was an unusual record with its share of quirks (her squeaky voice and fondness for arcane language, the harp), it also had its simple pleasures. Most of the tracks were short and the sound was spare; you pretty much liked it or you didn't based on how you felt about Newsom's sound and her ability to put a song together.
Joanna Newsom has been divisive since her playful and surprising debut Milk-Eyed Mender way back in 2004. There were those who couldn’t stomach the unique, rasping and almost saxophonic voice, and then, following the release of her second masterpiece Ys, there were those who couldn’t get on board with the wriggling, fantastical narrative and proggy structures. It almost seemed like baiting the critics when Joanna Newsom announced the release of a triple album, complete with tongue-in-cheek title Have One On Me.
A Joanna Newsom song is impossible to describe. Not Newsom's voice, of course, which conjures up adjectives like "gossamer" and "sprightly," or her harp, which is an instrument she pretty much lays sole claim to in 21st-century pop music, but her songs themselves, the way they bend back on themselves and wander away. Newsom makes one believe in impossibilities, like Peter Pan or The X-Files.
Have One on Me -- all three discs and two hours of it -- feels like the album Joanna Newsom has been waiting to make. It is the culmination of key elements of her 2004 debut, The Milk-Eyed Mender, and her second album, Ys. In fact, those elements -- the parts of her work that have led many to call her music "epic" and to compare it and Newsom to the creations of "fantasy" writers -- resonate more strongly here.
Thanks to Newsom’s love-it-or-hate-it voice, a creaky eggshell of a thing that splits the difference between crone and infant, some people will pass this one over without even listening. But, it’s their loss. Neither as rough-hewn as her debut, nor as baroque as the five-track, hour-long Ys, Have One On Me is Newsom at her best: precious without being cloying, subtle without being indecipherable, beautifully written and sweetly played.
Three discs of Joanna Newsom’s harp-assisted poetry might daunt even some of her fans, let alone her detractors. Yet Have One on Me, this two-hour-plus triple album isn’t as ?overwhelming as it might ?initially appear. While Newsom remains the most intricate lyricist currently working ?outside of rap, her melodies have become cleaner, her ?arrangements less mannered, and her singing more ?straightforwardly heartfelt.
A panoramic dreamworld It’s still too early for grand pronouncements about 2010, but what the hell, let’s get saucy: Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me is the finest two-hour, harp-driven, three-disc opus of the year. Newsom—still your best possible icebreaker at a dinner party of hipsters, Renaissance Fair staffers and woodland creatures—released her last solo record, Ys, in 2006 to a response that ranged from gleaming to marry-me-I’m-begging-you. But if that sophomore album was a vivid glimpse into her weird little world, this sprawling sequel, conceived in flagrant defiance of conventional logic, is legitimately bananas.
Returning with an almost comically lengthy new record after a nearly four-year absence, Joanna Newsom is not in the mood to make concessions to the standard musical dietary habits. Over the course of three discs, she has reappeared here in fine, magnanimous form. Indeed, Have One On Me lives up to its name, offering itself liberally and without restraint.
The inlay to Pulp's Different Class memorably told listeners not to read the lyrics while listening to the album. For Joanna Newsom's third record, each song's lyric is so long, beautifully phrased – "Even the ghosts huddled up for warmth," she whispers on Autumn – and dense with detail that it's difficult to keep up without study aids. Suffice to say, not many records in 2010 will contain phrases like "faultlessly etiolated".
With her two-hour-long new album, baby-talky Joanna Newsom demands that we slow down. [rssbreak] Stripped away is the density heard on her last record, and the harpist folkie has slightly toned down her quivering vocals, which can grate as much as ingratiate. Intact are the nature themes fans expect from a singer easily imagined floating barefoot through fogged-over tall grasses - floating, obviously, with harp in hand.
In case there was any doubt that Joanna Newsom was busy making music -- along with modeling and starring in MGMT videos -- in the four years between her brilliant second album Ys and its follow-up, Have One on Me’s three-disc, two-hour expanse is proof positive. The album’s massive size suggests that Newsom is bent on outdoing herself with each release, but the music is simpler than Ys’ symphonic majesty. Instead, she uses this oversize canvas to travel from Appalachian folk to big city pop, with stops at country, soul, and gospel along the way.
We already know Joanna Newsom isn’t afraid to go big. Hell, she sits her small frame behind that hulk of a harp all the time, and knocks out those strange, percussive notes of hers. However, Have One on Me isn’t big—it’s enormous. It’s an album without borders, its two-hour-plus running time is an unruly and unreasonable length.
One of the odder things about Joanna Newsom is her tendency to be compared, by fans and critics, to all manner of mythical forest-dwelling creatures: pixies, elves, sprites, Björk. These comparisons, while not always flattering on the surface, are typically meant as compliments, to underscore the otherworldly, enchanting quality of Newsom’s music. But the Newsom who debuted with The Milk Eyed-Mender was hardly ethereal; in fact, part of that album’s charm was its groundedness.
JOANNA NEWSOM“Have One on Me”(Drag City) Maybe it’s preposterous to suggest that Joanna Newsom’s three-CD, two-hour album, “Have One on Me,” is in any way stripped down. Along the way its songs deploy horns and strings, electric guitar and African and Balkan instruments alongside Ms ….
It seems almost inconceivable she could produce anything unremarkable. Louis Pattison 2010 Looking from the outside, the job of following up Ys – the 2006 album that transformed San Francisco harpist Joanna Newsom from kooky cult concern to a musician widely regarded as one of the more gifted composers of the age – appeared a task most unenviable. Epic in scope, with arrangements steeped in jazz and world music and lyrics prone to dazzling flights of archaic language more befitting of William Faulkner than any modern songbook, it was so exceptional as to beg the question: where next? Have One on Me answers that question in both prosaic and surprising ways.
With no obvious musical precursor, California harpist Joanna Newsom was ghettoized when her debut, The Milk-Eyed Mender, washed up in the regrettable "freak folk" wave of 2004. She was anointed a hippie-dippy wood nymph with a weird voice, and "indie" crowds approached her like a rare painting in a museum. Her ambitious 2006 follow-up, Ys, arranged and produced with Van Dyke Parks, unspooled like a Disney movie, all strings and sweeping melodies.